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Poll results: Your personal attitude, as a planner (real or 'armchair'), towards ever-expanding suburban areas

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  • Suburbs rule!

    1 0.93%
  • It doesn't matter; my role in a free society is to advise on tech aspects not influence urban form

    7 6.48%
  • My role is to help shape the built environment, but I can't really stop people wanting suburbs

    49 45.37%
  • Planners should actively discourage sprawl and encourage denser forms

    47 43.52%
  • Low-density suburbs are a plague upon the earth; in a perfect world they would be banned entirely

    11 10.19%
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Thread: Your personal attitude, as a planner (real or 'armchair'), towards ever-expanding suburban areas

  1. #51
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    I think that the original purpose of the IHS was to facilitate the movement of war materiel rather than people..
    I think it was both . Remember, people were still terrified of aerial bombing and the idea that an enemy by acquire the Bomb.

    In the 1950s, President Dwight D. Eisenhower saw the need for the United States to have sufficient evacuation routes for both military vehicles and private citizens in the event of a war with the Soviet Union.
    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    I think that it's wrong to assume that suburbs were only residential or that there were no jobs located in or near the suburbs. It wasn't uncommon, in Upstate NY at least, for large industrial areas to be located on the periphery of cities or in suburban towns rather than really close to downtown, so a lot of the early suburbanites in Upstate NY were employees of the manufacturing plants that were close to the city edges or in the suburbs. They had no need for highways.
    That may indeed be the case and I was really speaking from my knowledge of the town I grew up in. In upstate NY, many smaller, less urban locales are located along waterways and that probably provided an advantage to manufacturing - they could locate in many places so long as it was on the water and still get goods to market (and the Eerie Canalway opened up huge amounts of land to this possibility). But where I grew up, the only industry int he area was a paper mill and they did not employ large numbers of people. I would say, though, that short of being along a waterway, access to a highway for suburban areas would seem to be a boon for both commuting and locating manufacturing (making it possible) as it facilitates getting goods to market. In the case of Philly, all the port activity happens in the city. In the early farming days, my home town provided milled wheat to New Jersey and New York state by accessing an area of the Delaware River south of Philly but for whatever reason there never emerged an industrial base there. Still almost everything went to the ports in Philly before being redistributed regionally. The pattern I mentioned is also echoed by Dolores Hayden's book on suburbia but you are right in that it was more complicated than I presented and there really was no one reason for or pattern of suburbanization, especially in those early years.
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  2. #52
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    The interstate highway system, as it was built, was certainly a bad idea.
    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    The interstate highway system, as it was built, was certainly a bad idea.
    It was the most logical and cost-effective way to connect the country from coast-to-coast at the time. And it was a big part of the reason why America experienced an era of post-war prosperity that was unmatched in the rest of the world (think about the industrial powerhouse Southern California became as a result of freeways). Sure there were some highway routes that negatively impacted cities, but on the whole a greater purpose was served. We created a modern and efficient national transportation network which greatly enhanced our economic output, and one that could serve a vital purpose in the event of a national disaster or national security emergency which would require the evacuation of large metro areas and/or the mobilization of military. On the whole I believe the interstate highway system was a tremendous accomplishment.

  3. #53
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller View post
    It was the most logical and cost-effective way to connect the country from coast-to-coast at the time. And it was a big part of the reason why America experienced an era of post-war prosperity that was unmatched in the rest of the world (think about the industrial powerhouse Southern California became as a result of freeways). Sure there were some highway routes that negatively impacted cities, but on the whole a greater purpose was served. We created a modern and efficient national transportation network which greatly enhanced our economic output, and one that could serve a vital purpose in the event of a national disaster or national security emergency which would require the evacuation of large metro areas and/or the mobilization of military. On the whole I believe the interstate highway system was a tremendous accomplishment.
    What makes highways superior to rail for goods movement or for passenger travel? ... or for the "evacuation of large metro areas" or the "mobilization of the military"?

    If an evacuation was necessary, does anyone think the interstate system in this country would be able to handle such an event? ... countless private cars driven by countless individual drivers all jockeying for position, changing lanes, stopping and starting, etc.

  4. #54
    Cyburbian
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    Highways work a little better in Europe because they usually connect cities by terminating at ring roads or by changing character as the thoroughfares enter more urban environments.

  5. #55
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    What makes highways superior to rail for goods movement or for passenger travel? ... or for the "evacuation of large metro areas" or the "mobilization of the military"?

    If an evacuation was necessary, does anyone think the interstate system in this country would be able to handle such an event? ... countless private cars driven by countless individual drivers all jockeying for position, changing lanes, stopping and starting, etc.
    Nonsense. The Interstates, US highways, and State route systems work efficiently and effectively as hurricane evacuation routes here in Florida when the opposing lanes reverse direction movements are implemented. So yes, they can handle such an evacuation event.


    EDIT: I can't imagine what hurricane evacuation times would balloon to if the population had to rely upon trains. Not to mention, the dispersal of the population to different locations rather than concentrating them in a single destination.
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  6. #56
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    Highways work a little better in Europe because they usually connect cities by terminating at ring roads or by changing character as the thoroughfares enter more urban environments.
    Yeah I guess all of that destruction to put in 16 lane roads like in Paris made it unnecessary. Do you advocate 16 lane roads like Champs D'Elleyes through the middle of towns? Why what would new urbanists think of that???
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  7. #57
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    Yeah I guess all of that destruction to put in 16 lane roads like in Paris made it unnecessary. Do you advocate 16 lane roads like Champs D'Elleyes through the middle of towns? Why what would new urbanists think of that???
    The 16 lanes were necessary to accommodate the German army marching into Paris.
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  8. #58
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    Quote Originally posted by RichmondJake View post
    Nonsense. The Interstates, US highways, and State route systems work efficiently and effectively as hurricane evacuation routes here in Florida when the opposing lanes reverse direction movements are implemented. So yes, they can handle such an evacuation event.


    EDIT: I can't imagine what hurricane evacuation times would balloon to if the population had to rely upon trains. Not to mention, the dispersal of the population to different locations rather than concentrating them in a single destination.
    A centralized population makes for more efficient boarding of trains. Dispersal is a product of having the highways, so, of course, that development pattern is optimized for that mode of transportation.

    You're also arguing that running trains in a single direction at capacity and over an equivalent number of track miles would be less efficient than running cars over freeways the same way. So, high-speed trains with their high-capacity throughput are less efficient than cars?

    I wonder if Rick Scott would choose to be in a car on a freeway or on a high-speed train in order to escape a hurricane.

  9. #59
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    A centralized population makes for more efficient boarding of trains. Dispersal is a product of having the highways, so, of course, that development pattern is optimized for that mode of transportation.
    We're not talking about a centralized population, but even with higher density development patterns highways are a much better alternative for emergency evacuations. There's just way more capacity on highways, especially when you use buses.

    Using trains would be a pain in the ass. Everyone would have to go to the station, and you wouldn't have enough platform space for timely boarding. Plus, you'd need enough train cars for everyone. It would be a huge cluster.

  10. #60
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    ........ ..........You're also arguing that running trains in a single direction at capacity and over an equivalent number of track miles would be less efficient than running cars over freeways the same way. So, high-speed trains with their high-capacity throughput are less efficient than cars?

    I wonder if Rick Scott would choose to be in a car on a freeway or on a high-speed train in order to escape a hurricane.
    There are three, four-laned northbound evacuation routes in my county and three, east- and westbound routes. So yes, these modes of evacuation during an emergency situation are much more efficient than the single northbound rail line that is currently dedicated to freight service.

    I suspect that long before the next hurricane arrives, Skeletorman will be in New England.
    RJ is the KING of . The One

  11. #61
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    What makes highways superior to rail for goods movement or for passenger travel? ... or for the "evacuation of large metro areas" or the "mobilization of the military"?
    What happens when there's a train derailment? The track is closed in both directions for days. In war time, with aerial bombing, the railroads are easily disabled, preventing the flow of materiel.

    What happens when there's a washout of a section of roadbed on an interstate (or any major highway)? Within hours there's a detour and traffic continues to flow.

    If an evacuation was necessary, does anyone think the interstate system in this country would be able to handle such an event? ... countless private cars driven by countless individual drivers all jockeying for position, changing lanes, stopping and starting, etc.
    Bull manure. In Florida, when they order mandatory evacs before hurricanes, some of the interstates in the evac zones are turned into one way highways to double the number of cars going out. In case you don't ever drive limited access highways, there's not a lot of stopping and starting.

    How are families with small children or the physically frail or disabled going to be accommodated on trains? Moreover, many people will not evacuate if they can't take their pets, and those aren't allowed on trains. Do you really expect that people are going to take two buses with their kids and grandma in tow to get to the train station to wait three hours for the next train to evacuate them?

    Your obsession with rail blinds you to the fact that it has serious limitations.

  12. #62
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    Your obsession with rail blinds you to the fact that it has serious limitations.
    Both sides need to understand that a good transport system offers choices, and it is the availability of choice that creates the redundancies needed to overcome disasters of the type you describe.

    Cars, no trains, discriminate against those who can't drive - either because they can't afford car payments or because of medical conditions, or those that don't want the hassle of driving and car ownership (people like me). Trains and no cars, discriminate against those who have to move around larger groups of people, some of which don't have mobility themselves (like families with kids), as you point out. Choice, not forced modality, defines a good, as opposed to a limiting, transportation system. On balance, this probably means more facilities for transit relative to what we have now for many urban areas of the US, but not always. Some metros, like the San Francisco Bay Area, Philly and Boston, are probably over transitted.

    Oh Linda, while I generally agree with you, your point about car-based hurricane evac is seriously debatable. Florida and Lousiana's private car dependent evac systems work beautifully for the under-car'ed poor, as we saw in NOLA. Yep. Just leave 'em behind, 'cause they have no way out. Of course, perhaps that was the plan all along...
    Last edited by Cismontane; 27 Jun 2011 at 3:43 PM.

  13. #63
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller View post
    We're not talking about a centralized population, but even with higher density development patterns highways are a much better alternative for emergency evacuations. There's just way more capacity on highways, especially when you use buses.

    Using trains would be a pain in the ass. Everyone would have to go to the station, and you wouldn't have enough platform space for timely boarding. Plus, you'd need enough train cars for everyone. It would be a huge cluster.
    We actually are talking about a centralized population because we didn't have this decentralized population until the interstate highway system, the merits of whose construction we're debating, was built.

    Moreover, we only need to look to other countries and to our own history to see how populations were and are evacuated by train during emergencies.

  14. #64
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by RichmondJake View post
    There are three, four-laned northbound evacuation routes in my county and three, east- and westbound routes. So yes, these modes of evacuation during an emergency situation are much more efficient than the single northbound rail line that is currently dedicated to freight service.

    I suspect that long before the next hurricane arrives, Skeletorman will be in New England.
    Again, we're debating the relative merits of investing in an interstate highway system over the last half-century versus investing in the country's rail system with the same money over the same period of time.

  15. #65
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Cismontane View post
    Both sides need to understand that a good transport system offers choices, and it is the availability of choice that creates the redundancies needed to overcome disasters of the type you describe.

    Cars, no trains, discriminate against those who can't drive - either because they can't afford car payments or because of medical conditions, or those that don't want the hassle of driving and car ownership (people like me). Trains and no cars, discriminate against those who have to move around larger groups of people, some of which don't have mobility themselves (like families with kids), as you point out. Choice, not forced modality, defines a good, as opposed to a limiting, transportation system. On balance, this probably means more facilities for transit relative to what we have now for many urban areas of the US, but not always. Some metros, like the San Francisco Bay Area, Philly and Boston, are probably over transitted.

    Oh Linda, while I generally agree with you, your point about car-based hurricane evac is seriously debatable. Florida and Lousiana's private car dependent evac systems work beautifully for the under-car'ed poor, as we saw in NOLA. Yep. Just leave 'em behind, 'cause they have no way out. Of course, perhaps that was the plan all along...
    This is a false equivalency. Forced modality is only coming from the highway side in this country because the pro-highway lobby is where the overwhelming majority of the political corruption is.

    The disinvestment in rail and the outright dismantling of rail infrastructure in this country over the last half-century is an absolute disgrace, and Americans should be demanding better from their elected leaders, especially as corrupt officials from coast to coast are systematically working, even as we speak, to keep the nation enslaved to oil producers.

    Bear in mind that I repeatedly said highways have their place. Only others here are arguing for the status quo, which is forced modality. Ramming highways through city after city while degrading the surrounding property and doing all the other damage these monstrosities have cause is so patently asinine, though, that anyone in a planning forum who is still arguing for this infrastructure should address all their detrimental effects that I cited earlier.

    I also posed a question asking what makes highways superior to rail. Rail is cheaper. It is twice as fast. The right-of-ways are significantly narrower, and the throughput is higher. And, of course, the energy requirements are lower.

  16. #66
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    Again, we're debating the relative merits of investing in an interstate highway system over the last half-century versus investing in the country's rail system with the same money over the same period of time.
    Its not a relative argument. The way transportation is funded in the United States comes from one pot of dough. That pot is a user fee paid through the gasoline tax. Public transport would not be able to survive without dipping into the dollars that highway users pay to use the roads.

    Without user fees from highway to improve the rail system you would need to make those who use it pay thier fair share. If that happened economics of taking the train vs driving would kick in and in most parts of the country people will select driving.

    The United States has dualing policies. This is the crux of the issue. The president and congress want to wean us off gasoline, but gasoline is what pays the taxes to operate most other modes. With the pot shrinking due to this policy there is less money to implement the policies set forth in llegislation for high speed rail and other projects. Ultimately it is up to the people in a region to etermine where the money is spent. Under these conditions, it makes it hard to justify expanding public transport or non-motorized networks.

    BTW most of the Interstate system was completed over 20-30 years ago. It has come to the point of where massive reinvestment is needed. However the politicos will not increase taxes to pay for it. Expect to see HSR and New Starts to take the hardest of hits, next followed by highway capacity projects.

    Planning is all about the ying and the yang. You seem to understand this when it comes to new urbanist transects, but need to bone up on funding and policy if you want your projects to be successful.

    I would like to suggest that the number one issue when it comes to transportation/sprawl is not that of modal choice, but of poor land-use and real estate taxation policy at the local level.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  17. #67
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    Its not a relative argument. The way transportation is funded in the United States comes from one pot of dough. That pot is a user fee paid through the gasoline tax. Public transport would not be able to survive without dipping into the dollars that highway users pay to use the roads.
    Since transit has high fixed costs and low variable costs, pricing and service levels either create a vicious or a virtuous circle.

    When prices of transit rise, ridership falls and so does revenue, which, in turn, forces reductions in levels of service, as well as further price increases.

    When levels of service increase, ridership does, too, and that phenomenon allows for reductions in prices and for further increases in levels of service.

    Metrolink, the regional rail service in southern California, provides a great recent example. Fourteen new trains were added last month without increasing operating costs because of the anticipated ridership and farebox-recovery rates. Additionally, these trains included some very popular innovations, like express service between San Bernardino and Los Angeles in under an hour and a late-night train leaving L.A. Union Station on the same line at 11 p.m. Metrolink has also been experimenting with ticket media, including a Weekend Pass that provides unlimited use of the entire system from 7 p.m. Friday to midnight Sunday for only $10. So, Metrolink has been steadily expanding the market for trains by creating virtuous circles.

    It's also important to recognize that different orders of transit have different farebox-recovery rates. Many, including California High-Speed Rail and the Metrolink San Bernardino Line that I mentioned, are revenue-neutral.
    Last edited by Pragmatic Idealist; 27 Jun 2011 at 11:47 PM.

  18. #68
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    I misspoke. These transportation systems, at the very least, are revenue-neutral. California High-Speed Rail, like other high-speed rail services around the world, is expected to operate at a profit.

  19. #69
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    I misspoke. These transportation systems, at the very least, are revenue-neutral. California High-Speed Rail, like other high-speed rail services around the world, is expected to operate at a profit.
    Public passenger rail does not operate at a profit. Tell your granola eating sandal wearing professor he is full of it. The crunchiness/pot smoking has effected his thinking. Farebox recovery rates do not even come close to paying the full cost to operate a system. In order to have a system you first need the capital to build one. This capital comes from the gas tax. If you want to look at the system as a whole, you need to look at capital and operating costs.

    The point I am trying to make is that we are underfunding all transportation in this country. We need to increase both the gas tax and the cost of transit. To not do so is shooting ourselves in the foot. Over the longer term we need to phase out the gas tax completely and replace it with a miles driven tax that also takes into account the size of your vehicle.

    Go to a public meeting. Talk about the vicious or a virtuous circle and you will be doing a disservice to the profession. People do not speak in such terms and you will be yelled at for being pompous.

    The CEO of General Motors supports an increase in the gasoline tax of at least one dollar per gallon. This would help rationalize people's thinking about where they live and what modes they use. It would also get people to buy more Volts, but thats something completely different.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  20. #70
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    . . .Over the longer term we need to phase out the gas tax completely and replace it with a miles driven tax that also takes into account the size of your vehicle.
    ??? Isn't that exactly what a gas tax is?

  21. #71
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cismontane View post
    Both sides need to understand that a good transport system offers choices, and it is the availability of choice that creates the redundancies needed to overcome disasters of the type you describe.

    Cars, no trains, discriminate against those who can't drive - either because they can't afford car payments or because of medical conditions, or those that don't want the hassle of driving and car ownership (people like me). Trains and no cars, discriminate against those who have to move around larger groups of people, some of which don't have mobility themselves (like families with kids), as you point out. Choice, not forced modality, defines a good, as opposed to a limiting, transportation system. On balance, this probably means more facilities for transit relative to what we have now for many urban areas of the US, but not always. Some metros, like the San Francisco Bay Area, Philly and Boston, are probably over transitted.

    Oh Linda, while I generally agree with you, your point about car-based hurricane evac is seriously debatable. Florida and Lousiana's private car dependent evac systems work beautifully for the under-car'ed poor, as we saw in NOLA. Yep. Just leave 'em behind, 'cause they have no way out. Of course, perhaps that was the plan all along...
    I wasn't arguing cars vs mass transit. I was arguing cars vs rail. IMO, rail is far more costly and less flexible than bus transport. Rail has its place, but that place is high volume corridors with limited stops. It certainly isn't a better choice in evacuations than buses which can go to diverse places to pick up evacuees and can alter routes as needed.

  22. #72
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    California High-Speed Rail, like other high-speed rail services around the world, is expected to operate at a profit.
    riiiight. When Pigs fly and the republicans in the state house/assembly vote for gay marriage will the high speed rail ever turn a profit.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  23. #73
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Howl View post
    ??? Isn't that exactly what a gas tax is?
    Umm..no.

    If you buy a Prius and you fill up only 2 times a month but drive the same amount of miles as you did in say your gas guzzling suv, which you filled up once a week, than you theoretically are paying less in gas tax because you are filling up less.

    Conversely if you pay a tax per mile, you are tax based on the amount of trips you make regardless of the amount of fuel you use. big difference.

    duh
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  24. #74
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    I wasn't arguing cars vs mass transit. I was arguing cars vs rail. IMO, rail is far more costly and less flexible than bus transport. Rail has its place, but that place is high volume corridors with limited stops.
    The issue here is one of throughput capacity. The maximum line capacity for urban rail is 20,000 to 40,000 persons per hour commonly, with up to 70,000 possible at maximized headway. The maximum line capacity for dedicated lane rapid bus, BRT or express bus service is 10,000 to 20,000 persons per hour at max headway. A highway is maximum 1,000-2,000 vehicles per lane per hour, and that's debateable, buses on non-dedicated lane service can augment this count by up a maximum 1,500 persons per hour for a two lane highway according to our transport planners (I recently had to deal with this problem for a convention center, to deal with peak flows in and out of it).

    Thus, if you have six lanes of service on a highway, you can theoretically move up to 40,500 persons per hour in non-dedicated lane on-tire vehicles at an optimum 4 per vehicle occupancy plus maximized bus use in an absolute emergency given 6 lanes.. and it'll be a giant parking lot at that.

    As a matter of course (for non-emergencies), you can comfortably move up to 40,000 per hour by heavy urban rail, 20,000 by BRT/dedicated lane bus, 9,000 persons by car+maximized non-dedicated lane bus combo on 3 lane (in one direction) highway (3,000 per lane). Buses are appropriate in lower density environments but if you need to move vast amounts of people, as you rightly point out, rail is the way to go.

    The difference here is that you tend to practice in relatively lower density environments, like the smaller cities upstate (if I understand you correctly from your posts here), where buses are the better choice, while I do virtually all my professional work in major metros around the world, where rail is often called for.
    Last edited by Cismontane; 28 Jun 2011 at 11:57 AM.

  25. #75
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    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    I misspoke. These transportation systems, at the very least, are revenue-neutral. California High-Speed Rail, like other high-speed rail services around the world, is expected to operate at a profit.
    That business plan is irrational PI. Give me one revenue-neutral or revenue-positive railed urban system in the US (that's more than a single line or corridor of a larger system), with our without taking amortized capital costs into account. The San Diego MTS railed service is supposed to be one of the least unprofitable in the Americas and it runs at 60-70% farebox recovery and that's mostly because it doesn't really go anywhere and is severely underinvested. LIRR in NY runs at something like 25-30% farebox recovery and its the most heavily used commuter rail system in the country. I think the MTA runs NYC's subways at 55-60% recovery. Yeah yeah, I know that Amtrak says it runs one single segment of NEC service at a profit, but that's one very mature segment only and only because of funny math.

    To the best of my knowledge, Hongkong and Tokyo have systems that run at profits - the only large urban systems in the world to my awareness - but at 100,000+ persons resident per square mile in service corridors, professional "pushers" to shove the passengers into cars at rush hour, and prohibitive taxes on private cars, one should expect so. I don't even think Singapore's system reliably runs at breakeven. There would be physical violence if we tried to run a US system at their throughput volumes, even if we were to shift our primary urban residential typology to 30+ story towers.

    This is my problem with so many smartgrowthers. They rely on unproven scifi assumptions and fantasy modelling to back up their plans. ..kind of like the people in Toronto building out harborfront redevelopment plans with a base 50%+ transit modal share assumption, despite the fact there is no precedent for more than 35% in their city and only in areas with far greater density and employment capture. San Diego County, for example, has two such loser projects: the NCTD Sprinter north commuter system and the South Bay Expressway (a bankrupt toll road). I think both hit 20-30% their planner-predicted usage levels.. Wishful thinking works well as a planning methodology. The adage that comes to mind here is the old one about insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and getting the same outcome each time but expecting that the outcome will suddenly change the next time you do it.
    Last edited by Cismontane; 28 Jun 2011 at 12:00 PM.

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